Four Stone Hearth 79 @

As by necessity this edition is being put together quite hurriedly, let’s get straight to the posts – I received a grand total of 3 submissions, and two of those were from one contributor, namely Eric at The Primate Diaries, which is where we’ll begin.

In Reexamining Ardipithecus ramidus in Light of Human Origins, Eric examines the way in which the recent Ardipithecus ramidus discoveries have been interpreted, in this case by Owen Lovejoy, the anthropologist who headed up much of the recent investigations.

Next from the same author is Male Chauvinist Chimps or the Meat Market of Public Opinion? in which he comments at length on the stereotypical way in which food provisioning by male chimps (and by implication humans) has been interpreted, with claims that such behaviour supposedly increases their chances of copulating with females shortly after food has been shared – as he points out in the post, when the actual data are examined and analysed over the long term, in this case 22 months, we see a different story, as neatly summed up here:

The larger story lay not in the fact that females preferred to mate with males who provisioned them, but that they were opportunistically shifting their mating strategies for their own reproductive interests. In earlier studies by Boesch at the same site it was demonstrated that 84% of undesirable advances were rejected by females (Stumpf & Boesch 2006; pdf here), promiscuous mating was reserved for the early part of estrous and that 93% of all copulations were terminated by females (Boesch et al. 2006; pdf here). Females chose who they would mate with, when they would mate with them and how long it would last.

The point made thereafter is that instead of the view that male chimps shared food with females as a short term tactic, in reality the females appear to be calling the shots by adopting long term strategies in order to discern who  would make the best father for their offspring, recalling past food sharing, in addition to overall male ranking when making their choice.

And although this wasn’t actually submitted, I’ve included it anyway – Science Got Ardi Wrong or: The Enigma of Ardipithecus [UPDATED], which again points out some of the many holes in recently publicised news articles and the like – another very pertinent article which is not to be missed.

From Ad Hominin, Ciarán submits a post to which I referred to in a previous post here, namely Did Neandertals and modern humans interbreed?, and although I commented on just one paragraph, the account of the proceedings at the recent Human Evolution 150 Years After Darwin conference in Gibraltar reveals the ongoing debate regarding how archaic H. heidelbergensis and Neanderthals should be viewed, with particular reference to Atapuerca, and whether they should even be viewed as two entirely separate species in the first place.

In a similar vein we have this from Zinjanthropus: Skepticism is good, but… from which this is the introduction:

Earlier this week, Eric Michael Johnson drew my attention to a post by psychologist Christopher Ryan at his blog Sex At Dawn.  Ryan attacks Lovejoy’s monogamous humans model by citing many different lines of evidence.

I became so distracted by the reported testes:body mass ratio of 1/160 in humans that I couldn’t stop until I had some answers.  I am a female human, but even I thought that 1 kg of testicles would be an awful lot to lug around.  So I got out my books and my calculator and did some math, wrote in, and it was fixed.  Peer review in action!

Time now to serve off in other directions, where we find a bag of posts, mixed in topicality but all similarly interesting and well worth the read.

Over at Aardvarchaeology, Martin regales us with Danes Run Entire Urn Burials Through CT Scanner, whilst Alun Salt runs censorship through the mill with Libel, Censorship and Blog Comments, and further informs us that ‘It’s Not Just Jack Who Names the Planets’, in another riveting piece.

Sticking with archaeology, here’s a post called ‘Tramp Down Babylon’ from anthropologyworks which revisits the damage done to the site in the years since the US military has occupied the site, whilst back in the UK comes some slightly better news which concerns the recent discovery of the remains of a bluestone henge that is believed to have preceded the more monumental phase which eventually led to the construction of the megalithic complex with which we are familiar today. Eternal Idol has “It’s not quite Tutankhamun’s tomb, but…” – an account of Professor Mike Parker Pearson’s recent presentation on “Bluestonehenge”, which offers a nice report on the excavations ahead of a more formal publication some time in February 2010.

Brian at Old Dirt -New Thoughts asks ‘How Much Should We Dig?, with reference to his ongoing Hamline Project all the way up there in Alaska.

Neuroanthropology chip in with The Uncultured Project, and include a link to the actual project website here.

The final entry comes from the New York Times, who in common with Kambiz in a previous post here, announce Claude Lévi-Strauss Dies at 100, from which this is taken:

A powerful thinker, Mr. Lévi-Strauss was an avatar of “structuralism,” a school of thought in which universal “structures” were believed to underlie all human activity, giving shape to seemingly disparate cultures and creations. His work was a profound influence even on his critics, of whom there were many. There has been no comparable successor to him in France. And his writing — a mixture of the pedantic and the poetic, full of daring juxtapositions, intricate argument and elaborate metaphors — resembles little that had come before in anthropology.

So that’s it for this time round – the next Four Stone Hearth, the 80th no less, is due out on Wednesday November 18th – no host is as yet slated, so if you fancy having a go at hosting on your own blog or site, just follow this link where instructions on how to do so can easily be found. Thanks for reading this somewhat brief edition, which I hope wasn’t too perfunctory, but limited battery life in a cafetería was a strong natural selector on this occasion.

Science Got Ardi Wrong or: The Enigma of Ardipithecus [UPDATED]

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